Here is (what I believe is) another Extensive List Of Articles (Arguably) Well Worth Your Time!
When I read something interesting that I think you might like to see as well, I leave it open in my Instapaper queue. It’s been a while since I made a post like this, so now there’s a huge bramble-bush of links in there, growing and multiplying.
Below, find a few afternoons’ worth of reading for you, of a variety of things on a variety of topics. The only quality they share is that I found reading them worth the time it took to do so.
Oh, and I’ll also say, none of these articles are about presidential politics, I promise. I’ll save those for a whole separate list.
(Previous reading lists here and here.)
Your Letters Helped Challenger Shuttle Engineer Shed 30 Years Of Guilt (NPR) Note: this story has a version in audio format, as well. Listening is recommended, if you can.
When NPR reported Bob Ebeling’s story on the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, hundreds of listeners and readers expressed distress and sympathy in letters and emails…
“It’s going to blow up,” a distraught and defeated Ebeling told his wife, Darlene, when he arrived home that night.
And it did, 73 seconds after liftoff. Seven astronauts died. Cold weather and an O-ring failure were blamed, and Ebeling carried three decades of guilt.
“That was one of the mistakes God made,” Ebeling, now 89, told me three weeks ago at his home in Brigham City, Utah. “He shouldn’t have picked me for that job. But next time I talk to him, I’m gonna ask him, ‘Why me? You picked a loser.’ ”
Jim Sides listened to the NPR story in his car in Jacksonville, N.C.
“When I heard he carried a burden of guilt for 30 years, it broke my heart,” Sides, an engineer, says. “And I just sat there in the car in the parking lot and cried.”
Stop Trying To Be Creative (FiveThirtyEight)
In one experiment a bipedal robot programmed to walk farther and farther actually ended up walking less far than one that simply was programmed to do something novel again and again, Stanley writes.
Falling on the ground and flailing your legs doesn’t look much like walking, but it’s a good way to learn to oscillate, and oscillation is the most effective motion for walking. If you lock your objectives strictly on walking, you won’t hit that oscillation stepping stone.
Stanley calls this the “objective paradox” — as soon as you create an objective, you ruin your ability to reach it.
She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’ (NY Times)
Since I started writing about women and science, my female colleagues have been moved to share their stories with me; my inbox is an inadvertent clearinghouse for unsolicited love notes. Sexual harassment in science generally starts like this: A woman (she is a student, a technician, a professor) gets an email and notices that the subject line is a bit off: “I need to tell you,” or “my feelings.” The opening lines refer to the altered physical and mental state of the author: “It’s late and I can’t sleep” is a favorite, though “Maybe it’s the three glasses of cognac” is popular as well.
The author goes on to tell her that she is special in some way, that his passion is an unfamiliar feeling that she has awakened in him, the important suggestion being that she has brought this upon herself. He will speak of her as an object with “shiny hair” or “sparkling eyes” — testing the waters before commenting upon the more private parts of her body. Surprisingly, he often acknowledges that he is doing something inappropriate.
How David Beats Goliath (The New Yorker)
Ranadivé was puzzled by the way Americans played basketball. He is from Mumbai. He grew up with cricket and soccer. He would never forget the first time he saw a basketball game. He thought it was mindless…
It was as if there were a kind of conspiracy in the basketball world about the way the game ought to be played, and Ranadivé thought that that conspiracy had the effect of widening the gap between good teams and weak teams. Good teams, after all, had players who were tall and could dribble and shoot well; they could crisply execute their carefully prepared plays in their opponent’s end. Why, then, did weak teams play in a way that made it easy for good teams to do the very things that made them so good?…
The Turks simply did not think that their opponent would be mad enough to come at them from the desert. This was Lawrence’s great insight. David can beat Goliath by substituting effort for ability—and substituting effort for ability turns out to be a winning formula for underdogs in all walks of life, including little blond-haired girls on the basketball court.
Bang Bang Sanity (Stonekettle Station)
Laws against theft and murder don’t stop theft and murder, they give society legal options when theft and murder occur.
Saying new gun laws won’t end gun violence is a non sequitur. Of course gun laws won’t end gun violence.
Laws don’t stop crime, however, what well written laws do is to put responsibility where it belongs – on the criminal.
Well written laws are about pragmatism.
For example, we all know that laws against drinking and driving won’t stop drunk driving, but they weren’t intended to. We know it’s going to happen. People are going to drink and drive and kill themselves and each other. We know we can’t eliminate it completely. That’s the pragmatism part.
Instead, drunk driving laws were intended to do two things, 1) give us legal recourse as a society, 2) make us responsible for our antisocial behavior – which in turn leads over time to a change in culture…
We need gun laws that give society legal recourse by making each gun owner/user personally accountable for their own actions.
For Love and Honor: Hollis Frampton to Donald Richie (Letters of Note)
In December of 1972, Donald Richie, then film curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wrote to artist Hollis Frampton and suggested that they organise a retrospective of his work at this most prestigious of museums.
To an artist of any standing, this would be a tempting offer; however, Frampton took issue with one particular line in the proposal, a single detail of Richie’s which rendered the suggestion entirely unattractive: “It is all for love and honor and no money is included at all…”
Unwilling to work without financial reward, Frampton responded at length with a rousing letter, reprinted below in full, that has since become legendary in the art world for reasons which are plain to see.
Lawyering Is About Service, Not Self-Actualization (Popehat)
People traditionally recognized as being in need of social justice are also the people in most dire need of competent legal representation.
When they have a few days to contest an eviction or they’ve been arrested and may lose their job, they don’t need someone who is exquisitely prepared to explain and denounce the racist and oppressive structures that led to their unfortunate predicament.
They need someone who knows what he or she is doing. They need someone who knows all of the petty substantive and procedural rules of landlord-tenant law and how the local court actually operates.
They need someone who can swiftly assess whether an arrest or interrogation was unlawful and formulate a plausible and effective plan for dealing with it.
They need someone who knows how to get things into evidence in court even under pressure on their feet when the judge is being difficult and the opposing counsel is making nonsensical objections. They need a grubby little practitioner.
When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages (Toronto Star)
Before he crunched his numbers, the consensus among his fellow air force researchers was that the vast majority of pilots would be within the average range on most dimensions. After all, these pilots had already been pre-selected because they appeared to be average sized. (If you were, say, six foot seven, you would never have been recruited in the first place.) The scientists also expected that a sizable number of pilots would be within the average range on all 10 dimensions. But even Daniels was stunned when he tabulated the actual number.
Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions. One pilot might have a longer-than-average arm length, but a shorter-than-average leg length. Another pilot might have a big chest but small hips. Even more astonishing, Daniels discovered that if you picked out just three of the ten dimensions of size — say, neck circumference, thigh circumference and wrist circumference — less than 3.5 per cent of pilots would be average sized on all three dimensions. Daniels’s findings were clear and incontrovertible. There was no such thing as an average pilot. If you’ve designed a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’ve actually designed it to fit no one.
My Wife and I Are (Both) Pregnant (New York Magazine)
Emily: Exactly three weeks after we found out I was pregnant Kate called me at work and was like, “Guess what?” I fell off my chair. I was sitting on the floor, alternating between laughing hysterically and hyperventilating and crying. It was so overwhelming.
Kate: We were like, “Oh my God, we just overshot this. We can’t live in a one-bedroom apartment with two babies!”…
Emily: I really loved being pregnant. It was very easy for me. I felt good, I was very happy. I didn’t have any issues at all besides the fact that my feet grew so much that I had no shoes. Everything has been very easy for me and nothing has been easy for her. I’ve really had to try to not feel bad about that because I don’t want to feel sorry for her. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy, of course I feel deeply for her, but I didn’t want that emotion to be a part of either of our pregnancies. And I didn’t want to not have a great pregnancy because I felt bad about it.
Kate: The pro and con of having your wife, another woman, go through pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood in tandem with you is that you can’t help but compare.
Star Wars Is a Postmodern Masterpiece (Slate)
Star Wars is a Western. Star Wars is a samurai movie. Star Wars is a space opera. Star Wars is a war film. Star Wars is a fairy tale.
A Jedi craves not such narrow interpretations. In fact, Star Wars—the original 1977 film that started it all—is all these things. It’s a pastiche, as mashed-up and hyper-referential as any movie from Quentin Tarantino. It takes the blasters of Flash Gordon and puts them in the low-slung holsters of John Ford’s gunslingers. It takes Kurosawa’s samurai masters and sends them to Rick’s Café Américain from Casablanca. It takes the plot of The Hidden Fortress, pours it into Joseph Campbell’s mythological mold, and tops it all off with the climax from The Dam Busters. Blending the high with the low, all while wearing its influences on its sleeve, Star Wars is pretty much the epitome of a postmodernist film.
Best of Luck: A brief introduction to death (The Awl)
The last thing I remember before the cardioversion was the anesthesiologist saying, “This is only going to take a second, but you do not want to be awake to feel it.” When I came to, my heart was back to a normal rhythm and there was an electrode burn on my sternum about the size and shape of a deck of cards. It lingered for weeks, scabbing over and itching and reminding me of the time they powered me down.
Lots of stuff for you here! Some creativity, some inspiration, some death, some life.
Next roundup post, some time in the future: ALL POLITICS, ALL THE TIME. Go ahead and delete your bookmark now, I guess, or else pour yourself a fifth and have it ready.